Sunday, May 24, 2015
Session 33 Synopsis
Zerak was the first to speak. he was visibly upset as he addressed Lord Padraig, then Zola, then Asphodel. He told them that the cards were causing all these strange happenings, that they were dangerous to use, and that trying to use them would be a very bad idea. He tried to plead to Padraig's sense of duty, responsibility, and goodness by telling him that if he used the cards, something like what happened in Gardmore Abbey would most likely happen here as well. Then the guards, their families, and the rest of the people in Winterhaven may end up suffering a terrible fate. He continued by listing out all the creatures they had fought in the small area of the Abbey. Creatures that were all drawn to that area just because of the cards, and if they were used here, then Winterhaven would end up overrun with all those evil creatures as well. Blackwell, then threw his cards onto the floor as well. He also felt that where this was heading was not going to end well and did not want to be a part of it. Kel also spoke up against the use of the cards and that Padraig should think about the fact that the cards have a hold over him forcing their will upon him and that he should really think about putting the cards down. Jobi jumped into the conversation and said that the cards should not be used and that she thought they should be destroyed as well, but admitted that they probably couldn't do it.
This whole time Asphodel was concentrating on the growing pile of cards on the floor and slowly began to inch her way forward in hopes of picking the up. But Zerak picked up the cards before should had a chance to. Then she heard jobi mention something about destroying the cards and reacted instinctively by looking at her while a low, threatening growl escaped her lips. This caused both Jobi and Zerak to tell Asphodel that she was being overtaken by the cards and needed to back down. Asphodel did not move, nor did she stop staring at the two of them either. Then Jobi also decided that she wanted to get rid of her cards as well, but when she went to get them, she couldn't find them. Zerak began asking everyone if they had the cards, but no one admitted to having them. He then turned to Asphodel and asked her directly but she did not answer. Just as he was about to confront her more on this, Lord Padraig, who had a confused look on his face, pulled out his three cards and sat down on the stairs leading up to his raised dais. Zerak immediately began encouraging him to "fight it" and soon Jobi and Kel joined in giving encouraging words to Padraig to help him break the hold the cards had on him. Finally, as if a heavy weight had been lifted off of him, he managed to break free of the cards' influence and clarity came back to his eyes as he slumped forward a bit as if very weary.
Lord Padraig, now back in control of his faculties, seemed truly humbled by the experience. He began, "Oh my friends. Please forgive my actions. It was like a waking dream. I sensed that things were amiss but couldn't, or maybe wouldn't do anything about it. Thank you for putting a stop to my madness without killing me. Those cards have such an allure. I can see now why the Knight Captain at Gardmore Abbey used them. I don't want to keep them here. I know I'm not strong enough to use them without being consumed by them. I'll trust in my skills and my people to keep the area safe. I'm also sorry that I don't actually have the power to grant all the land that I said I would. The power for that lies with the governments of Neverwinter and Waterdeep. I will, however, inform Lord Neverember of how much you've helped us here and I'm sure he will also be grateful for this. But I can and will still honor our trade agreement, Blackwell. Maybe someday I can come and visit you and your growing community. So I will bid you farewell for now. Please take all the cards from here. All I ask is that if you decide to make draws from the Deck that you do it far away from Winterhaven, just in case.
Before the party bid farewell to all their new friends and took their leave of Winterhaven, heading back home to Neverwinter, they returned the sword call Moonbane to Sergeant Murdeggin. He way very happy that the sword was once again useful to the forces of good and rewarded the party with 3,500 gold pieces for bringing it back to him in one piece. He said that it will stay in Winterhaven just in case it was needed again to help protect the community from evil.
Once the party stopped and made camp for the second night of their travel back to Neverwinter, they were faced with a decision that everyone had on their minds since that final meeting with Lord Padraig. Would they assemble the Deck and take draws? they discussed it for a while and in the end decided that luck was in their favor. They assembled the deck by giving all the cards to Asphodel. Once all the cards were in her hand, the deck suddenly emitted a very bright light outwards about a foot in diameter surrounding the cards and Asphodel's hands then quickly faded out. She no longer felt the obsession to gather all the cards together and was now completely in control of any decisions she was to make concerning The Deck of Many Things.
Asphodel told the others what she had "heard" in her head and then began shuffling the deck of cards in preparation for giving "readings" to everyone that wanted one...
And when Asphodel's choice was final, the Deck began to emit a bright light and then vanished from her hands, never to be seen on this world again. the rest of the journey back to Neverwinter went by uneventfully. Back in town, everyone decided to get some shopping done adn some other personal agenda items. Jobi went to Mordai Vell's estate along with Zerak and retreived all her belongings and basically gave him the "we're done" speech. Mordai was saddened but very gracious and understanding and they left his estate without any incident. Now Jobi joined the rest of our heroes in living at the Bloated Float Tavern and Inn for the meantime, since where her house had been is now a part of the Spellplague Chasm / sinkholes. Blackwell decided that he needed to work on his gunsmithing and created/upgraded his weapons and ammunition, along with several kegs of black powder. He had also paid to have his new guns enchanted by a local wizard. They also were able to sell off the magical gear they had collected from the final battles in Gardmore Abbey and everyone gained a nice some of coin from it, which definitely pleased Zerak, who up until then, was living on donated funds.
A few days of rest and relaxation did everyone a world of good. One evening in the Bloated Float bar, the waitress came over to Zerak and handed him a note saying that a man gave it to her to give to him. The note said, “Please meet me outside in back of the Stables. I represent Regis Freemantle's employer.” And it was signed Montreau. So Zerak told the rest of the party and with some trepidation they all went out to meet whoever sent the note. When they arrived at the designated meeting place, they found a person dressed all in black and it was impossible to actually get a look at his face since the cowl on his cloak was very long. He had a deep voice, though a bit on the airy side, and spoke somewhat slowly and deliberately. “Greetings, to you and your friends. I am Montreau. My mistress sends her regards and would like to speak with you. She is aware of your efforts on behalf of Regis and other matters here in Neverwinter and abroad and would like to discuss them with you. There is a small compound, named Blackstone Keep, about a day’s journey southeast of Neverwinter in the Neverwinter Woods. It is near where the King’s Road has a four way intersection – south heads towards Waterdeep, east heads towards Winterhaven, and the much lesser used route north is the one that will take you to the keep. You will have to look carefully for it for it is not marked, most see the area as a three way intersection. Wear these pins on your chests starting at the intersection and you will be greeted peacefully as guests.” He held a small leather bag in his hand and offered it to Zerak. He was wearing black gloves that left no skin showing. The party did a detect evil and detect magic spell on this person and saw that he was not evil and that the bag was not radiating as magic. So Zerak took the bag from him. Montreau then bowed, said good bye, turned, and left.
They did a quick look in the library to see if they could find out anything about Blackstone Keep. But all they found out was that it was an ancient Thayan outpost that was abandoned centuries ago. So our heroes left in the morning and followed the directions. they found the northern path, little more than a goat trail here and put their pins on before proceeding. Soon they came upon a part of the woods that seemed to be a little off. The trees were a bit blackened, the dirt was not quite the right color, and the wind seemed to avoid this entire area. After about a quarter day, they reached the site of Blackstone Keep. It was situated in a clearing – no trees or anything else to hide behind was present for at least a thousand feet around the black walls. There were eight towers along the walls, one in each corner and one in the center of each wall, with each tower about another 30 feet taller than the walls, which are also around 30 feet tall and span at least 500 feet in each direction. The gates were closed and there were four individuals standing outside the gates. They were dressed in black with crimson cloaks and were all human and very well armed. When the party approached, the guards stepped aside of the gates and bowed to them, never taking their eyes off of the party, while the gates swung slowly outward. The gate tunnel was about 30 feet long or so and was a pretty standard design with murder holes in the ceiling and arrow slits along the walls. The inside gates slowly started to open into the tunnel as they passed by the outer gates, which started to close, and they saw four more humans dressed the same way just inside the inner gates.
When our stalwart band had entered the keep proper, the guard in the (left) middle said, “Greetings. The mistress has been expecting you. Please follow me.” Looking around, they saw a couple small outbuildings, also made of the same strange black block stone but no other people inside the compound. Around the wall, however, there were many fully armed and armored guards, all wearing the same crimson cloaks. And as they walked to the keep’s front doors, they were able to count about 15 guards per wall section. The keep is also made of black stone and the doors are some type of black metal. As they approached the keep’s front doors, these doors also slowly and silently swung outwards, just like the main gates. They walked up the black stone stairs and into the entrance chamber. It looked and felt old, very old, but the structure seemed sound and very well built. As they passed through the chamber they saw guards in suits of armor lining the left and right walls, ten to a side, all polished and gleaming in the dim light. Each was holding a two-handed sword by the pommel, point down on the ground. The suits looked very archaic and ornate compared to the ones you've seen in the shops in Neverwinter and they all have the same strange crest on the breastplates which they were able to recognize as Thayan from the time before the current government some four hundred years old or so.
The party continued to follow their escorts into what appeared to be the main hall of the keep. It too was very ornate with wall carvings and similar armed guards standing inside alcoves along the two long walls. These ones were holding halberds, and there are 24 of them here, twelve per wall. There were also a number of people in here as well, possibly around twenty. They were all wearing the same type of garb as your escorts, black leather or black robes and crimson cloaks. There was a dais at the far end of the chamber that went up by 4 steps to three large ornamental chairs, not unlike thrones, but not nearly so audacious looking. On the floor in front of the dais was a long wooden table with a dozen chairs on each side, gold place settings, and crystal goblets like a banquet was planned. Upon the dais in the two chairs on either side of the center chair were one human male on the left side and one elven female on the right side both of indeterminate age but obviously confident in themselves. They too were clothed in a similar manner as the rest of the people here but more opulently, and in the case of the elven woman, more scantily. The person in the center chair was not really visible due to the shadows and the chair itself was a little further back from the other two. The escorts suddenly stopped in unison and the man who spoke to the party before, now spoke again, “Greetings, Mistress. I present to you Zerak Brunleaf, Kel Crownsilver, Asphodel, Zolanorateal, Jobi, and Blackwell.” He then turned back to you and said, “May I present to you, Valindra Shadowmantle, mistress of Blackstone Keep.” And with that the four escorts parted and backed up to be in line with the rest of the people off to the sides.
Then the person in the middle chair got up and walked forward as she began to speak in a very melodic and pleasing voice, “Welcome, honored guests. I am so glad that you decided to make the journey and meet with us.” She continued as she indicated the two people next to her, “Seated next to me are my two advisers, Morphus and Zereena.” As she finished her sentence, you got your first good look at her. Valindra was wearing a very expensive looking crimson cloak, most likely some sort of silk, and a very revealing leather bodice and leather thigh boots adorned with what can only be diamonds and gold trim glittering in the dim light. She is very well proportioned and tall with long golden blonde hair that shows highlights of white and honey. Her elven features and form show great beauty and she looks to be in her prime (She's absolutely gorgeous). Her skin does look a bit pale with a slight grey tinge to it though, coloring unusual for an elf. But her eyes are a very bright green, almost unnaturally so, and reveal a much older and wiser intellect than her body suggests. She has a commanding presence and projects an air of confidence, authority, and power. She walked down from the raised platform and approached the party and continued, "I wish to help you and wish for your help as well, for we have a common enemy that neither of us can handle on our own. I propose an alliance between you and us against Netheril. Please just hear me… oh my! Montreau! Quickly, assist her!”
Montreau and several others came quickly to Asphodel and Zola gently lifted her onto the table. One servant had water, and another some towels. She awoke shortly and was visibly shaken by what she just experienced and the pain lingered on like skin being raked by many small needles. Montreau looked back to Valindra and gave a quick nod. Valindra then said, “I've seen this before. Even just hearing the name of our common enemy has the power to bring out dark, repressed memories for those who have experienced… personal attention from the Netherese. I apologize, Apshodel. I did not realize that you had not heard their name before now, otherwise I would have prepared you.” Another servant came into the room with a tray containing 2 vials and an empty glass to Valindra. She took the two vials and poured them into the glass and gently mixed them together. “Here, Asphodel, drink this. It will help ease the pain and calm your nerves. It is a mixture of local herbs and whiskey. You can thank Zerak’s ancestors for this old family remedy. As I was saying, I propose an alliance between you and us against Netheril. Please… just hear me out before you make any decisions.”
“For centuries we and Netheril have been at war in the Shadowfell, that nether-plane where the Netherese found themselves banished to millennia ago. But the Spellplague opened a rift between the Shadowfell and our plane that has allowed them to come back and begin aggressions towards everyone anew. And they work tirelessly to raise their ancient flying cities of death and destruction that were destroyed a millennia ago. They are currently trying to fix Xinlenal, the first enclave. And once they raise that city they will start working on the next one until all six of them are brought back from destruction. So far, we have been the only ones working against Netheril, trying to stop them and send them back to their imprisonment. But now we know we need help, for the Netherese are slowly gaining allies in this world through their honeyed lies, bribes, and gifts of deceit. And each one of you has a personal stake in this conflict even if you are not aware of it. Let me explain.” Then Valindra addressed each one of the heroes... (Note: these are a bit more elaborate than at game time due to time constraints. Please read them and you'll probably have more questions for Valindra)
The party had asked only a couple questions so far. Zerak asked about his father and Valindra sai he was really of no consequence, that all the power in his family comes from his mother's side. Zola was truly perplexed by Valindra's statements about her and her family and couldn't form any questions at the moment. Asphodel asked how they knew about her father and mother. Valindra stated taht they had raided a Netherese experimentation facility when she and they were being held - in fact they were able to escape because of Valindra's attack on that facility and they had recovered the documents that the Netherese kept on all subjects at that place. She would share those documents with Asphodel.
We leave our heroes sitting down to dine with Valindra and her associates and will continue with the discussions over dinner and the journey to Xinlenal next game session.
Stay tuned for the next exciting season when we will continue our exciting adventures when our heroes investigate what the Netherese are really doing. Will they decide to align themselves with Valindra and help a growing war effort against the Netherese infidels? Will Asphodel start to get answers about her previous life of captivity? What will Zerak do now that he knows his ancestors have been steeped in necromancy and have had ties to the nation of Thay for many generations - will he follow in their footsteps, make a new path, or take Valindra up on her offer? Will Blackwell finally get vengeance for the deaths of his family and fellow tribesme... uh, pack-mates? Does Jobi decide that she must do something about Mordai Vell and Neverwinter, her home for the past decade - the only truly "stable" home she has had? What did Valindra mean when she spoke about the usurping of the true Neverwinter ruler? And what does Zerak's original family name have to do with Neverwinter and the Orpheus Stone? What will Kel do? Will she take up the mantle of freedom fighter and help put down another repressive regime. Will Zola be able to come to grips that someone in her family may be mixed up with the nation of Netheril and what does it have to do with her casting out? Does the good of the many really justify the means to an end? So many questions... so many decisions... so many different paths ahead...